The Fear (1995, directed by Vincent Robert)

Psychology student Richard (Eddie Bowz) wants to conduct a study.  After getting permission from the head of his department, Dr. Arnold (Wes Craven!), Richard gathers together a group of students and takes them to his family’s cottage.  He introduces the group to “Morty,” a life-sized wooden dummy who Richard has had ever since he was a child.  Morty, Richard explains, was carved by a Native American shaman and was then stolen by Richard’s grandfather.  Each member of the group is told to confess their greatest fear to “Morty.”  Even Richard takes part, confessing that he was scared of Morty when he was growing up.

File this one under “it seemed like a good idea at the time,” because the weekend quickly heads south.  Richard’s uncle (Vince Edwards) shows up unannounced with his new girlfriend, Tanya (Anna Karin).  Members of the group start to disappear and one of them is assaulted at a Christmas carnival, leading the group to suspect that one of them might be the rapist who has been attacking women on campus.  Morty starts to show up in an unexpected rooms in cottage and it appears that everyone’s fears are starting to come true!

The Fear is one of those films that used to show up on late Cinemax but I mostly remember it because it was one of those movies that always seemed to be on display at our local Blockbuster.  The VHS cover featured Morty giving someone the side-eye and looking dangerous.  Morty is the best thing about the movie.  Just looking at him is unsettling.  Why would Richard be stupid enough to tell people to confess their fears to Morty?

Morty is creepy but the movie doesn’t seem to know what to do with him.  Sometimes, Morty is evil and can move on his own and even seems to be capable of possessing someone.  Other times, the movie seems to suggests that everything that’s happening is just in Richard’s head and Morty is just a wooden dummy.  The story becomes impossible to follow as every member of the group is revealed to have a secret and Richard is finally forced to admit that there is something that he’s even more scared of than Morty.  (If, as the film suggests, Morty is mostly after Richard, why does Morty first waste so much time on the other members of the group?)  The Fear is not without ambition.  It takes the therapy scenes seriously and Eddie Bowz does seem like he’s trying to give a believable performance as Richard.  It seems like the people involved wanted to make a good movie.  But once everyone’s fears start to come true and the movie moves into a ridiculous subplot about Richard and his stepsister, the movie is too disjointed to work.  It doesn’t help that most of the fears are too mundane to really translate into an imaginative death scene.  By the end of it all, not even Morty’s that scary anymore.

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